Brown’s Creek Watershed District to work with Oak Glen Golf Course on a new Clean Water project

In 2012, Brown’s Creek Watershed District partnered with Oak Glen Golf Course to restore 1,300 linear feet of Brown’s Creek as it flows through the golf course. The project added more than two acres of native buffer along the stream bank to help reduce water temperature and create better habitat for trout and other fish. If you pause along the Brown’s Creek Trail just north of McKusick Rd., you can see native plants blooming along the edge of the stream as it flows through holes 10, 15 and 16. 

Streambank buffer in Oak Glen Golf Course.

This year, the watershed district and golf course will again join forces, this time with the City of Stillwater, to construct a stormwater reuse system that will protect Brown’s Creek and reduce the amount of groundwater pumped by the golf course for irrigation. The project is supported by a $360,100 Clean Water grant from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

Currently, stormwater flows into a wetland on the south side of McKusick Road, where it can become quite warm by the time it overflows into Brown’s Creek. The new project will reuse excess stormwater from the wetland to irrigate the Oak Glen Golf Course.  The water will be pumped through a new pipe under McKusick Road into the golf course’s existing irrigation pond.  Safety floats will be installed in both the wetland and irrigation pond to maintain water levels for a healthy wetland.

Concept design by EOR Inc, presented to the BCWD board in August.

There are three main goals for the Oak Glen stormwater reuse project. The first is to keep warm stormwater out of Brown’s Creek. The stream is currently listed as impaired due to high water temperatures, which can kill trout, as well as native cold-water fish and invertebrates. The reuse system is expected to reduce thermal loading to Brown’s Creek by about 1 degree Fahrenheit. That might not sound like a lot, but for a stream that is right on the edge of being cold enough for healthy fish reproduction, it is significant.

The second goal is to keep phosphorus and sediment out of Brown’s Creek and the St. Croix River. Phosphorus is the primary nutrient driving algal growth in the St. Croix River and experts estimate that one pound of phosphorus can grow 500 pounds of algae. The Oak Glen reuse project will keep as much as 78 pounds per year of phosphorus out of Brown’s Creek and the St. Croix River.

In addition, this project will allow Oak Glen Golf Course to reduce the amount of groundwater it pumps for irrigation. Groundwater is the only source of drinking water for the City of Stillwater and also provides base-flow to Brown’s Creek. Once the project is complete, the golf course will make use of stormwater runoff from the road that would otherwise flow down to the river and away to the ocean forever.

Previously, the watershed district has worked with the City of Stillwater, Washington County, Minnesota DNR, and private landowners in the area to complete several additional stream-improvement projects. Stormwater treatment units were installed under McKusick Road and along the Brown’s Creek State Trail near Countryside Auto to collect runoff and trap pollutants and nutrients that would otherwise flow to Brown’s Creek. The watershed district also installed an underground thermal reduction project in Brown’s Creek Park to cool stormwater coming from Neal Avenue and the parking lot before it flows into Brown’s Creek.

During the July 2020 meeting of the Brown’s Creek Watershed District, EOR, Inc. reviewed current design plans for the Oak Glen reuse project. Construction will most likely begin over the winter and be done by next spring.

Brown’s Creek is a designated trout stream and a signature resource within the watershed district. The old stone arch bridge was part of the historic Military Road that once ran through Minnesota.